The American dream of Norway
Part 6: Nicole Brekkaa
Our ancestors came to America to give their families a better life. Now young Norwegian Americans dream of the old country. This series of interviews was conducted by a visiting Norwegian journalist.
“I always say that I am a U.S. citizen, but 100% Norwegian. I think it’s important to keep the relationship going between our countries,” says Nicole Brekkaa, 29.
Nicole’s parents came to the United States in the ’70s from the Haugesund area on the west coast of Norway, but she was born here in Seattle.
“Norwegian heritage is my identity. In the United States, identity is a melting pot and people get a little lost. I am proud to be different. When I went to school some kids would laugh at my brunost and other things. But I was stubborn and kept at it.”
She was brought up celebrating Christmas Eve and Syttende Mai, listening to fairy tales about trolls, and eating pinnekjøtt.
Now she works as a teacher, and has also been very active in the Norwegian-American community in Seattle.
“It’s been important to me to be a part of different groups like the 17th of May committee, Norwegian American Chamber of Commerce, and Karmøy club, to keep the connection alive among us who live in the greater Seattle area.”
Yet she does not consider herself a «Super Norwegian».
“That is more a term used for those who think they are really Norwegian, but think lefse is only for Christmas time, everyone eats lutefisk, and people say uffda all the time.”
Now she says her Norwegianness can be seen in the way she decorates her home, making it koselig Norwegian style, but also her view of the world. Her heritage has also played a part in her job as a teacher.
“I feel many Americans are close-minded and think America is the only place that exists. I am happy to have a different perspective. Being a teacher and growing up Norwegian has opened my eyes to the fact that we all come from different backgrounds, which will shape how we learn. Some of us are more individualist, and some work better with a community-driven mindset. I have been able to talk with students about having my family come from a different country and growing up having another language spoken at home.”
To Nicole, Norway is about calmness.
“Here it’s a go-go-go mentality; everyone is super busy all the time. Society expects so much of you. And you don’t get much vacation. In Norway you visit friends and family in their homes, just to take a coffee break. Just sitting down and having coffee. That is definitely not a very U.S. thing to do!”
Nicole considers herself a conservative Republican but is not very into politics. Lately she has been missing a midway point, feeling that the debate is more and more about choosing sides. In the 2016 election, she didn’t vote.
Does she have any negative views of Norway? “No! Just how expensive it is. I guess I live in this dream state about Norway.”
She says that in 10 years’ time she will probably be living in Seattle, still keeping her ties back to Norway.
“I have thought of moving there for a period of time if the timing was right, but I’m a homebody. And home is here in Seattle.”
Ingerid Jordal is a photojournalist based in western Norway, with a great passion for the deep north and stories of belonging. She is scared of flying, but not scared of driving backward on a highway in Seattle. Learn more at www.ingeridjordal.no.
This article originally appeared in the September 6, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American.